Like you, when the Ashley Madison scandal broke last week, I didn’t know who or what an “Ashley Madison” was. I know the singer Ashlee Simpson, but have never been a fan of her music. I know the San Francisco Giant’s pitcher Madison Bumgarner, but as a Dodgers fan I am forced to hate him.
But Ashley Madison?
Like you, I soon learned. And my stomach turned. It’s not just that adultery is wrong. It is, but it’s more personal for me. One time when I was seven my father put me in a hotel room overnight, by myself, so he could be with the waitress we had met at dinner. And I’ll never forget the time when as a nine-year-old I was driving with my mother and asked her, “Why does Daddy date other girls?” My mother’s face went white, and she tried to change the conversation. When I was eleven my father walked out and never came back. To this day I can’t watch a movie where someone commits adultery.
Maybe you can relate? Perhaps your heart has been shattered by adultery?
So the idea that “life is short, have an affair.”
I don’t think so.
I hate adultery.
And God hates adultery. He only chose ten commandments and one of them is, “You must not commit adultery,” (Exodus 20:14). He refers to adultery as evil (see Deuteronomy 22:22) and a detestable sin (see Ezekiel 16:22).
But then … my wife surprised me. She reminded me that God hates adultery, but God loves adulterers.
She asked me who in the Bible, outside of Jesus, is the person who seems to stand out as God’s favorite. I don’t actually believe God has favorites, but he definitely talks like this one guy was his favorite. In fact, he’s the only person in the Bible God calls, “a man after my own heart.” That person is David. David, as in as-a-boy-took-on-and-defeated-Goliath. David, as in grew-up-to-become-King-David. David, as in as-a-married-Peeping-Tom-saw-a-naked-woman-taking-a-bath, had-his-lackeys-go-fetch-her-and-bring-her-to-his-castle, had-sex-with-her, got-her-pregnant, then-had-her-husband-killed-to-cover-up-the-scandal. That David.
Why was that David the one God honors as being after his own heart? I don’t know. But I do know my wife was right. God loves adulterers. That doesn’t downplay their sin. Adultery is evil and it destroys spouses and little kids. I know. I’ve been there.
That’s why God hates adultery. But God loves adulterers, and he makes an offer to them. David knew about the amazing grace of God and responded to that offer when, after being confronted about his adultery, he wrote to God, “Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2).
When David came to his senses and realized the magnitude of his sin, he knew exactly what God wanted from him. He wrote, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God,” (Psalm 51:16-17).
Right now there are a bunch of people who have been exposed and publicly humiliated in the Ashley Madison scandal, and they shouldn’t be surprised. We can try to hide, but our sin will always find us out (see Numbers 32:23).
What may surprise them is that, despite their sin, God is still for them, and is inviting them to come to him with a broken and repentant heart. If they do, they’ll be welcomed with great compassion by a God who will blot out their sins and wash them clean from their guilt.
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